Rare Tick-Borne Disease Sends Pennsylvania Toddler to Hospital

By author of The Realblog with Stephanie Mallory

The boy is still suffering from muscle weakness due to the Powassan virus

A Pennsylvania toddler has been released from a hospital after suffering severe illness from a rare tick-borne virus.

According to Insider, Jonny Simoson, 3, was swimming when his mother, Jamie, noticed a tick attached to his shoulder. She easily removed it with a pair of tweezers and says it left behind a tiny red bump.

But, two weeks later, Jonny developed a fever of more than 103 degrees, became drowsy, and complained of a headache. After two pediatrician visits, his mother took him to the emergency room. He was then hospitalized, where doctors ordered MRIs, CAT scans, a spinal tap, antibiotics, and antivirals in an effort to figure out and fight his illness. Doctors eventually diagnosed him with meningoencephalitis caused by the Powassan virus.

"It was so frustrating searching for an answer. We were terrified that we might not be coming home with our child," Simoson said.

Black-legged ticks, also known as deer ticks, can infect people with the Powassan virus, which is typically diagnosed by testing spinal fluid.

Between six and 39 cases, mostly in northeastern states and the Great Lakes region, are reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention each year.

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Although most people remain asymptomatic, if the virus infects the brain or its membranes, it can cause confusion, loss of coordination, difficulty speaking, and seizures.

According to the CDC, approximately one in 10 people who get severe illness from the Powassan virus die, and about half of the survivors suffer long-term muscle loss and strength.

Physicians treated Jonny with five doses of disease-fighting antibodies from blood donors, a treatment called intravenous immunoglobulin therapy.

He was discharged from the hospital after 12 days, but is weak on one side of his body. He also needs physical rehabilitation and speech therapy. His parents say they had to teach him how to eat and drink again.

"Jonny was still not walking, and his balance was poor. We knew we had a ton of work to do, but were up for the challenge," Simoson wrote in a blog post.

"We're really confident that the progress that he has made will just continue," Simoson told CBS Philly.

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